Comforting Words: Blue Christmas

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blue Christmas

I have heard the term “Blue Christmas,” and had a conceptual understanding of its meaning – until this year.

Since childhood, no matter the hardship my family was facing. Christmas was “the most wonderful time of the year.” There were many years when we could not afford the traditional ham or even had money to purchase gifts for exchange. Yet, there was just something about the season that made the fact that Spam was our substitute for the leg of pork no big deal.

While a student in the former Soviet Union, Christmas was not something officially celebrated but even then those of us from traditional Christian countries found ways to mark the December 25. In tiny dormitory rooms, twenty or so of us would gather to sing Christmas carols and eat a variety of dishes traditional to people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.

Quite by accident a new Christmas tradition was created in my family in 1990. Trying to decide on the menu for the Christmas dinner my now ex and I chose to serve something quite untraditional. Ever since that year, every Christmas there was always something non-traditional, meaning other than ham, chicken or turkey, on our table. One year we had Cornish hens, another year river prawn (janga – in Jamaican). We would go to some length to find a dish unusual to the Caribbean Christmas fare.

This Christmas, I will be serving ‘blue’.

I have joined the ranks of the thousands, possibly millions, of people across the Christian world who Christmas will have a very different colour for them this year.

We are now six days away and most my Christmas ornaments and decorations are still in their boxes. Only through the force of my will did I manage yesterday (December 18) to put up my growing Christmas village. I took no pleasure or joy in doing so and wondered why I bothered.

My daughter loves her traditional Jamaican Christmas fruit cake or pudding and insisted that I baked. Maybe that was her way of trying to gently nudge me into the spirit. Friday evening (December 17) we spent a few hours together baking and since then I have been diligently and liberally ‘soaking’ the puddings with wine and Jamaican rum. I am sure they will be tasty as usual but someone might have to tell me.

The truth is my friends, after much resistance to my psychologist's suggestion that I see a medical doctor regarding the state of my mental health; I finally had to admit that I was in serious trouble.

After spending another sleepless night Thursday (December 7), pacing the apartment, reaching for any resource that would ground me, not wanting to call anyone at 2:00 a.m., I found myself crouched on the floor of my bedroom closet, afraid to come out.

The part of my brain that was still functional insisted that I call someone for help and I did but unfortunately those who I managed to reach at 9:00 a.m. were already at work so I was getting only voice mail. Then there was one dear friend who I managed to get but she was extremely triggered and overcomed by my deteriorating condition that she was herself immobilized.

Finally, on a break my daughter picked up my desperate voice mail message and called. I was still cowered in the closet, as I pleaded to her to get help for me or to come stay with me before I did something stupid. We finally agreed that, being as she was the only family we have in Edmonton and in Canada, she would call her Aunty J, to see if she could drive me to the hospital. In the meantime, my daughter would try to get off work and meet us there.

Well, to cut a long story short, that did not happen. Basically, Aunty J called and the response was that I am doing this to myself and should cut out the drama and stop contacting her as I am going to cause her to lose her job. The good side is she offered to call me a cab but I explained that I am afraid to leave the closet – literally – and could not manage dressing much less sitting in a cab on my own to the clinic or hospital. That was the last I heard of or from her – almost two weeks ago.

Fortunately, one of the dear souls on whose voice mail I had left a plea for help came home later that afternoon and called me. Immediately upon hearing that I was still in the throes of what would later be described as a ‘breakdown’, she rushed over, packed me up and took me to the doctor.

And so, this Christmas along with whatever meal my dear friend M, who entirely at her own expense will travel from Toronto to be with me – not wanting me to be on my own in this condition – I will be popping pills.

The doctors have declared me clinically depressed and I am now on tranquilizers and anti-depressants. The former are habit forming and I am trying my best to control how many I take each day and the later takes three to four weeks to kick in – so I am still struggling with severe panic attacks and suicide thoughts (yes, they are back).

Ever trying to find the positive in any situation, I am grateful for this experience as it gives me a deeper appreciation for the suffering that I see in my world everyday. I work with women who have similar and even worse experiences than I could ever imagine. When I am tempted to feel sorry for myself and the fact that I have basically been abandoned by the one who I thought was my dearest friend – I remember the lives of these women and the strength that they share with me each day.

Along with the circle of women who continue to gather and care for me, these women are the ones that give me hope.

This Christmas Day after picking at whatever M cooks us, I will be heading for work – not officially – to be with women who truly understand how to keep it real, how to be loyal and honest and how to care for each other in times of need.

Maybe it will not be so ‘blue’ after all.

I wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas. I pray that you may never experience anything close to what I have been through and am still enduring but that if you ever do, know that I will be here to share your journey.




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